A group of inmates at a Los Angeles County jail deliberately tried to infect themselves with COVID-19 in the hopes of securing an early release, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Monday.
Surveillance video released by the Sheriff's Office appears to show several men at Pitchess Detention Center-North County Correctional Facility sharing a bottle filled with hot water and passing around a mask allegedly contaminated with the virus.
Villanueva said in a statement that they drank from the bottle in an attempt to spread the virus and to try to raise their oral temperature moments before having their temperature taken by a nurse.
"As a direct result of the behavior seen in the video, 21 men tested positive for COVID-19 within a week," the statement said. "A gross misunderstanding among the inmate population led many to believe that those diagnosed with COVID-19 may be released, which is untrue."
Since the pandemic began, 222 inmates in the jail have tested positive, 117 have recovered and 18 were released from custody after testing positive, but prior to meeting CDC standards for being considered fully recovered, according to the Sheriff's Office.